(an excerpt from my 1st novel)

Geraldine sat out on her back deck sipping her cup of tea and enjoying the warmth of the sun on her face.

“What a magic day,” she glanced at her watch, “oh, Tom will be home shortly, better get dinner started.” She smiled as she thought of her husband, placing her cup down on the small table next to her, she began to slowly ease her way up and out of the chair.

“AAAHHH!” all of a sudden she felt an immense pain low down in her stomach causing her to fall. Then another jabbing pain, “SHIT!”

Geraldine lay on the ground for a few moments holding her stomach while trying to take some deep breaths, waiting for the pain to subside. She managed to get to her feet. Still doubled over, she made her way inside the house. She could see the phone lying on the kitchen table, Geraldine lunged for it, knocked over a chair and with a heavy thud was on the floor. Holding her stomach with one hand she frantically dialled Tom’s mobile number.

“Hey sweetie, what’s up?” Tom’s voice was cheerful, until he realised Geraldine was hysterical on the other end, struggling to get a word out.

“Please …. Tom …. I …..”

“Geraldine, Geraldine !” Tom was already out of his chair and trying desperately to find his car keys on his desk, “Geraldine I’m on my way!”

“Tom!” Another surge of pain caused Geraldine to drop the phone, she clutched her stomach, “Please my little love, please be alright,” the tears streamed down her face.

Clutching his car keys tightly, Tom ran towards the lift. His office was on the third floor. He frantically pushed the down arrow and waited for what seemed like forever to hear the ‘ding’ of the lift bell. He rushed at the lift banging his shoulders on the lift doors as they were still opening, “OPEN!” he yelled. He made his way down to the ground floor and startled Kelly the receptionist at the front desk as he ran towards her. His voice was shaking, “Kelly, please call an Ambulance to be sent to my house, Geraldine has just called me and something is wrong with …. her … the baby … both … I don’t know! Please tell them I am on my way home now!” Tom faintly heard Kelly telling him that it would be ok and that she was dialling 000 as he took off out the front door towards his car.

“Geraldine! Geraldine! Where are you?” Tom called loudly as he burst through the front door, “Jesus Christ!” he found his wife curled up like a frightened child on the kitchen floor.

“Tom I’m bleeding.”

Tom felt so utterly helpless. He could do little more than hold his frightened wife’s hand as she was hurriedly wheeled in through the large doors to Emergency. He had asked so many questions, first to the Ambulance Officers and then to the nurses who had seen to Geraldine as soon as they arrived. They could offer little information.

“We need to get your wife seen to by a doctor and to get your baby monitored immediately.”

They were taken to a room within the Maternity wing which seemed to be overly stocked with complicated looking medical equipment and a large monitor. Geraldine was still clutching at her stomach, her tears interminable, distress and pain etched across her pale face as the doctor entered the room. He looked concerned yet calm at the same time. One of the nurses stopped him before he reached Geraldine and spoke softly to him. He nodded and made his way over. Initially he said nothing, just looked closely at the monitor, concentrating on the little ‘beeps’ that were the beats of their baby’s tiny heart. He furrowed his brow and turned to Geraldine, “Mrs Williams, there is a complication with your placenta that is causing the bleeding as well as a loss of oxygen to your baby.” The doctor placed his hand gently on Geraldine’s shoulder. “We need to perform an emergency caesarean and will need to anesthetise you for the procedure.”

“I won’t be awake for the birth?” Geraldine’s face was a mixture of disbelief and utter devastation.

“I’m very sorry Mrs Williams, with the situation as it is, to have you completely under during the operation is necessary.” Although his words were short and to the point, Tom could see there was genuine empathy in his eyes, softening this otherwise clinical conversation.

“Mr Williams unfortunately we cannot allow you in the operating theatre.”

“Tom, I don’t want to go in there alone!” Geraldine looked across pleadingly at Tom.

“Everything will be ok sweetie; I won’t be far away.” Tom’s head throbbed as he fought back the tears. The whole situation felt unreal, ‘These things don’t happen to us, they happen to other people!’ Tom thought with almost disbelief, ‘But then, how many other people in a situation like this one, have had that very same thought.’ Tom was forcing a smile, hoping to God Geraldine could not read his mind. His wide open eyes were burning with unshed tears.

Tom was gently pushed aside, as midwives busied themselves with preparing Geraldine for the birth. They were gently asking her when she had last eaten, placing tape around her engagement and wedding rings and removing any other jewellery that she was wearing. All the time they were calmly explaining what they were doing and why. Geraldine was only half listening, she had been given pain relief as part of her surgery preparation and she was sleepy. Her beautiful green eyes looked heavy. “Try and take a deep breath Mrs Williams. I am going to get you attached to a drip ready for the anaesthesiologist.” Geraldine barely registered what was being said.

Tom watched as a needle was inserted into the back of her hand. Her skin looked so frail and delicate, a small trickle of blood ran across her tiny wrist and onto the stark white bed sheet. He felt a tear willing its way out of the corner of his eye. He mindlessly wiped it away.

“I love you sweetheart,” Tom kissed Geraldine. Tom watched as they wheeled his darling wife down the corridor.

Tom had been taken to a small waiting room. There was a television on in the corner that he was staring at but not really watching. He was just looking up at the clock on the wall for what felt like the hundredth time, when a female voice startled him.

“Mr Williams?”

Tom jumped up from his seat and turned to see one of the midwives at the door. He was pleased to see it was Helen, one of the senior midwives who had been with Geraldine the whole time and had tried to explain everything to Tom throughout all the panic. “Is it over, is she ok, my baby, what ….” Tom moved hurriedly towards her.

“Geraldine is out of surgery and is in recovery.”

Tom felt a small amount of relief, “and our baby?!” Tom looked excitedly at her, his mind racing with a billion thoughts of his wife and child.

“Mr Williams?…”

“Please, call me Tom.”

“Tom, Geraldine is recovering well but the doctor will need to explain more.”

Tom felt his stomach sinking. “What do you mean? Helen what aren’t you telling me?!”

Helen reached for Tom’s arm and gently started leading him out into the corridor. “Geraldine is just a few doors down.”

Tom walked alongside her, he didn’t know whether to yell or demand to speak to someone else or … just then Helen stopped. They were standing outside one of the recovery rooms. Tom looked inside, he could see Geraldine lying in bed. She had several tubes attached to her, two monitors side by side showed the beating of her heart. A thin almost transparent tube made its way across her beautiful yet pale face and into her delicate nose.

The air inside the room felt desperately heavy. He glanced sideways at Helen standing next to him, who avoided his eye contact.

“What? Is she ok? Where is our baby?” Tom’s questions falling out of his mouth in a jumble as he rushed to Geraldine’s side.

“Geraldine, sweetheart, are you ok?” Tom stroked her face, it was clammy. Her eyes were heavy.

“Tom?” She stretched out her hand towards him. The effects of the anaesthetic were still very evident with her slow movements and weak grasp of Tom’s hand, “Have you seen our baby? What did we have?” a slow smile spread across her face.

Tom turned toward Helen, “why hasn’t Geraldine seen the baby yet, where is our baby, do you need to take us to the Nursery?” Tom felt a wave of uncertainty wash over him.

As if on cue, Dr Patterson entered the room.

“Dr Patterson, did everything go ok? Can we see our baby? What did we have?” Tom’s words came out in a rush of panic, excitement and confusion.

Dr Patterson’s face was stern as he approached Geraldine and Tom.

“I’m afraid the situation became more serious. There were more complications than we first anticipated. Your baby had defects within its heart that unfortunately were not picked up during your routine scans. I am so sorry to have to tell you, but, your baby boy did not survive the birth.”

“But … I … what heart defects … I don’t understand …” Tom could hear the words coming out of his mouth but they sounded so far away, like someone else was speaking them. He did not cry, he did not yell, he could feel his knees giving way, dizziness taking over. He began to shake. Tom fell heavily to the floor. Helen helped him to his feet; he turned to look at Geraldine. She was so still, her eyes completely glazed over. He could see she was crying, silent tears falling onto her deathly white face.

“Oh Geraldine, oh my love.” His tears came then. He knelt by her bedside his hands holding hers, his face buried in the blanket.

“I want to see my baby … please …” Geraldine’s voice was little more than a whisper.

Helen spoke quietly with Dr Patterson before he left the room. She then made her way back to Geraldine’s bedside. “I can stay with you both for as long as you like, or would you prefer to be alone with your little boy?” Helen’s voice was calm, her words very precise, but with a genuine sadness to her tone.

Geraldine did not respond, she just stared straight ahead, her eyes like two glass marbles in her still face. She looked like a porcelain doll laid out on a child’s bed.

“Maybe you could just stay for a moment or two,” Tom spoke to Helen while still looking at his wife. “Geraldine, please say something,” Tom held onto her hand tightly, trying to understand the lack of emotion from his wife. He, himself had not been able to stop the tears since hearing Dr Patterson’s words.

Just then he heard the sound of wheels entering the room. Another of the midwives had just wheeled in the cot which was carrying their son. Helen stopped her at the entrance to the room. “Thank you Sarah.” Sarah nodded and glanced across to Geraldine and Tom, her head slightly bowed, sadness in her eyes and then quietly turned and left the room. Helen then brought their little boy across to them. He was wrapped up in a cream coloured blanket, looking like he was in the most peaceful sleep ever. Geraldine barely moved. She did not make eye contact with Helen at all.

Tom did not know what to do. Seeing his precious baby brought an involuntary smile to his face, pushing its way out through the tears.

Helen handed him to Tom. Tom stared at his son, he looked absolutely perfect not a thing wrong with him. He unwrapped the blanket and held his little hand, marvelled at his tiny little feet. The moment was all encompassing, a myriad of happy and devastated emotions fighting each other within Tom’s exhausted body. They had felt so much love for this baby, excitedly awaited its arrival and now they felt the kind of pain that only the loss of a loved one can bring. He looked over at Geraldine, she had started to look towards their baby.

“Geraldine, would you like to hold your son?” Helen gently approached.

Geraldine was ashen faced, her arms rigid as Tom handed him to her, but as soon as Geraldine had him in her arms, her whole body seemed to soften, she smiled down at him and gently stroked his face. “We had a boy Tom. A precious little boy. Look at his button nose, it’s so tiny. He needs a name, he looks like a Daniel, don’t you think?” Geraldine kept talking in a quiet voice, she described his face in immense detail, almost like she was taking a hundred photos of him with her eyes, so as to never forget what he looked like. She was speaking to him like he was just sleeping, telling him how much she loved him and all the while addressing him by the name she wanted him to have. Tom’s heart ached.

Tom was unsure of how much time had actually passed, he was sure it had been hours. He and Geraldine had stared at Daniel’s tiny face, spoken to him and held him as tightly as they dared, his little body had felt so fragile. They stayed this way for quite some time until eventually, Helen came back into the room. She approached Geraldine who was gently stroking the top of Daniel’s head. “Geraldine, I am so sorry, but it’s time, we need to take your son now.” She spoke softly, her voice heavy with empathy.

“His name is Daniel,” Geraldine said quite forcefully, not taking her eyes off him for a minute.

“What happens now Helen?” Tom heard his voice starting to break as he asked. “Where will he go?”

“We need to take Daniel for another check, so we can be as sure as we can what caused him to pass away.” Helen spoke softly and calmly. “Everything else we need to do, we can talk about over the next few days, but right now both of you need time. Geraldine, I will come and see you a little bit later on.”

At that moment, another nurse entered the room and approached Geraldine’s bedside. Helen slowly reached for Daniel and carefully took him from Geraldine.

It was after she had to let go of their son that Geraldine’s emotions started to pour out of her like a raging river that had burst its banks, she began screaming. Tom had never heard anything so raw and soul destroying. His precious wife had held their baby boy for a long time. He had watched her stare into his perfect little face whilst cradling him in her arms. For the rest of his life, he would never be able to describe the agony his body felt watching his beloved wife, mother a dead child.

The nurse who had entered had attached a drip into Geraldine’s other hand. Tom watched the clear liquid flowing through the tube. By now, Geraldine was sobbing uncontrollably. Thankfully Helen re-entered the room shortly after and stayed with Geraldine until she finally fell asleep. She had been heavily sedated and was now breathing steadily, seemingly in a peaceful sleep. Tom sat quietly next to Geraldine’s bedside, unable to cry anymore, his body feeling like a wilted vine, once robust and strong, full of expectant joy as it wound its way up towards the light of what was to be the birth of their first child. There was no light now. The dark clouds had taken over and the joyful vine was nothing more than a shrivelled, brittle, stick.

Tom had managed to drift off into a restless sleep, curled up in the chair. He awoke with a start when he heard footsteps and voices approaching. Helen walked in with a woman Tom assumed to be another midwife, she was dressed rather smartly in a knee length skirt and suit jacket. Her blonde hair was pulled back neatly, her face perfectly made up. She walked with both elegance and importance. Helen motioned to Tom from the doorway to come over to them. He got up out of the chair, looked down at a still sleeping Geraldine, gently caressed her tired face and made his way over.

“Tom, this is Caroline, she is a grief counsellor who specialises in stillbirth.”

“Hello Tom,” Caroline held out her hand. Tom, a little apprehensive, gently shook her hand.

“Hello.” He kept looking over his shoulder at Geraldine. “Um, as you can see, my wife is still resting and I don’t really want to disturb her. I’m assuming you have come to speak with me about Daniel?”

“Yes Tom. However, I am also here to talk to you about how you are. At the moment I realise everything is a mix of emotions. Anger, grief, confusion.” Caroline looked at Tom with sympathy in her eyes. It made him feel worse, like he was expected to start crying all over again, like he was to be pitied, the poor man who lost his son at birth.

“No offence Caroline, but right now my main priority is Geraldine. I’m just not interested in talking about it at the moment. I’m fine, just tired.” Tom looked to Helen pleading with his eyes for them to leave.

“Tom, are you sure you wouldn’t like to maybe just have a cup of coffee with Caroline?” Helen looked directly at Tom, with many an unspoken word written across her concerned face.

“No thank you, I said not right now,” with this Tom walked back across to Geraldine and again took up his post in the chair beside her.

Helen and Caroline spoke softly to each other for a brief moment and then made their way back out into the corridor, Helen glancing back over her shoulder at Tom as she left. Tom had just turned on the television above the end of the bed when Geraldine began to stir. He watched as Geraldine’s tired, sore body slowly rolled from her side until she was on her back. Geraldine opened her eyes and still a little groggy from the sedatives, scanned the room until she made eye contact with Tom next to her. “Tom … what … what happens now … please tell me I am waking up from some terrible dream …  please …” Geraldine looked at him pleadingly, her tears began to flow fast. Tom could almost see the anger within each tear ravaging his wife’s devastated face.

Tom sat on the edge of the bed pulling Geraldine into his chest, “just let yourself cry.” Tom felt a single tear fall from his eye and told himself, ‘you’re the only tear that will get out,’ as he brushed it from his cheek. “It is not my turn to cry, not yet.” This thought causing his eyes to burn. He held on to Geraldine as tightly as he could, feeling her body shaking uncontrollably against him, her crying endless. He was the husband, the man, the protector. But he could not protect against this. He had never been sure of religion, had never really been convinced of there being a God, and if there was, then how on earth could he be so cruel. ‘If everything happens for a reason,’ he thought to himself, ‘then please, tell me what possible reason there was behind the painful enormity of this situation.’

Geraldine remained in hospital for just short of a week. During that time, Caroline had been in several times to see both her and Tom to talk. Geraldine had been slowly weened off the heavy pain killers and sedatives that had somewhat contained her emotions. So much so that by the end of the hospital stay she had become almost completely withdrawn. Each time Caroline had tried to talk to her about Daniel, the birth, Geraldine had either been too sleepy to talk or too confused, and now that she was drug free she was bottling up everything that she was feeling, or as Caroline put it, ‘dangerously shutting down.’ Tom talked a little, but could never really figure out what it was that she wanted to hear. “There is no correct response, no right or wrong thing to say,” Caroline repeatedly told Tom, “it is whatever you are feeling, whatever you feel you want to tell me.”

It was all a bit too touchy, feely for Tom. He had grown up in a household where emotions were constantly kept in check, men did not cry and under no circumstances did you speak to anyone, especially a therapist, about your personal problems.

Helen had also tried to talk to the both of them and Geraldine seemed to open up a little more to her, although Helen also commented to Tom that she thought Geraldine was keeping too much to herself. “You have both been through something traumatic and you must let yourselves grieve and let out your pain, there is no shame in it, in any of it.”

Tom and Geraldine nodded at Helen and thanked her for everything she had done for them throughout the entire experience. Helen gave them both a genuine, warm hug. Tom allowed himself to relax a little, his body softening enough to reciprocate with a genuine hug back. Geraldine appeared cold and detached, her body stiff and un-responsive. Tom watched as Helen ignored the obvious physical block that Geraldine gave and hugged her even tighter, “Please,” she looked from Geraldine to Tom, “just because you have been officially discharged from the hospital, does not mean that the support you will both continue to need will stop. Please speak with Caroline, she understands more than you feel like she does. I know it is hard to talk about, but you both need to.” Helen’s voice was empathetic yet firm, her bright blue eyes full of concern.

Geraldine gave her a weak smile and took Tom’s hand, “thank you for everything Helen, we appreciate it,” her voice was a strange monotone, devoid of any real emotion, “come on Tom let’s go home.” And with that they left the Hospital.

‘It’s behind us now,’ thought Tom as the large, glass sliding doors of the Hospital entrance closed behind them. ‘The pain has been closed away, it will stay behind those doors…’ this thought lifting the immense weight that was resting on his shoulders, just ever so slightly. He wrapped his arm around Geraldine’s shoulder, “we will be ok.” How wrong this statement would turn out to be.

The one thing that could not be avoided while in the hospital, was organising Daniel’s funeral. Helen had been invaluable. She had stayed with them every step of the way, helped them deal with all of the details and the endless forms that needed to be sighted and signed from the Hospital concerning Daniel’s death. And now the day had arrived. They had been home from the Hospital for a week. It seemed so much longer than only two weeks ago that Daniel had died. The funeral could not be held shortly after the birth due to the circumstances. An Autopsy had to be performed and Geraldine needed to be released from Hospital. From the time Geraldine came home until now had been, well, for want of a better word, strange. She had moved about the house fussing with things, dusting and cleaning constantly. The freezer was full of food that Geraldine had cooked, “so that I’m organised with meals once I go back to work shortly,” Geraldine had told Tom with an awkward smile. On the outside she was busy and getting on with things, she didn’t want Tom to have to deal with her grief as well as his own, however on the inside she was all but dead.

Tom took one last look at himself and then made his way into the kitchen. Geraldine was sitting at the kitchen table with her back to the door. Her narrow shoulders were slightly hunched over and her head slightly bowed. She had her hair in a neat bun and was wearing her bright green blazer over a black skirt. “I couldn’t bear to wear all black,” she had told Tom, “I wanted our child to have lots of colour in their life.”

“It’s time darling.” Tom called gently from the kitchen door. Just then the doorbell rang, “that will probably be Shelley, I’ll go and see.” Shelley was Geraldine’s older sister. She and Geraldine had always been extremely close, spending plenty of time at each other’s houses for coffees, lunch, any excuse to get together really. Shelley and her husband Mike lived only a short fifteen minute drive away and Geraldine and Tom often babysat Shelley and Mike’s five children. Geraldine adored each and every one of them and had longed for a child of her own. It had taken Geraldine such a long time to finally fall pregnant with their little boy and although it hurt her as her sister easily fell pregnant time and time again, she never resented her sister or her children, quite the opposite, she doted on them. Yet since the day of Daniel’s birth she had barely spoken to Shelley. Shelley had been devastated by the entire event and wanted to be there for her little sister, but Geraldine had just kept shutting her out. Tom had tried his hardest to get Geraldine to talk about Daniel with Shelley, but all she kept saying was, “how on earth is she going to understand how this feels!”

Geraldine had heard Tom speaking to her but chose not to respond. She could now hear the front door closing. Shelley’s voice made its way through to the kitchen, causing Geraldine to wince slightly. ‘How can I face her,’ she thought as she stared down at the half drunk cup of coffee in front of her. She had felt so wretchedly ill all morning and could not stand the thought of something to eat, but figured she had to have something in her stomach so once she was dressed and ready she made herself a strong cup of coffee. She had only managed to drink half of it and now here it sat, murky and dark, like the dark shadow she felt was encompassing more and more of her soul. With shaking hands, she pushed the cup away from her, causing some of the now cold coffee to spill onto the table. Through Geraldine’s eyes and her grief stricken mind, she could see the brown liquid moving towards her, slowly and determinedly, ‘more darkness to bring me down from the inside out,’ this thought causing her to sigh, so heavily.